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Beavah

Changing Times & Demographics

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Maybe we can all agree that an increasing number of scouts are having problems with parent/guardian situations that have an impact on about half the boys we have in our troops.

 

So, does that mean:

 

1) BSA keeps itself a boy program?

2) BSA changes itself to a family oriented program?

3) BSA keeps it's traditional programming?

4) BSA changes it's traditional programming to accomodate the world in which it exists?

5) Does keeping or changing harm BSA more?

6) ?????

 

Times change so how does one react?

 

Yah, jblake raises a good question, eh? Beyond changin' "Lad and Dad" campouts to "Parent and Pal", how do we respond to changin' demographics?

 

To me, our numbers are pretty clear. Da BSA has never gained any traction in communities outside its traditional white suburban/rural, relatively intact family base. Scoutreach, Soccer & Scouting, none of those really go anywhere despite da occasional positive story of one troop here or there.

 

Personally, I don't think we're willin' to change enough to serve the needs of those other communities, eh? And we don't have the talent for it. It's like J. Crew tryin' to design hip-hop clothing. Better to just do a good job for da demographic we reach, while accommodating individual lads as best we can.

 

What do da rest of you think?

 

How should we best "reach out" beyond our core demographic?

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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In reaching out beyond the "core demographic" do you lose the ones who have made it what it is? Will BSA no longer appeal to intact families who are increasingly being made to feel as though they are not "normal".

In another thread, someone said only 7% of children live with their own, married parents. Did I read that wrong?

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I posted the 7% figure from a study done a few years back and yet another study showed that figure to be more around 50% (1998) and declining so I'm thinking the number might be more in line with 30-40%.

 

With that being said and going more with what Beavah says, the pool of Cleaver families' boys is declining rapidly. I have tried to reach out to all boys in my area, but they all tend to be in the Cleaver/divorced situation. I find that the broken home situations can't afford many of the activities that the boys are involved with. Single income families fall into this as well. We do our best to provide fund raisers for these boys, but if they don't get out and hussle, it's a losing proposition. While many of these boys would benefit from the BSA program to improve their situation, like college, it takes a lot of money up-front and for some families this just isn't an option.

 

Stosh

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Well Beavah, we have reached out a bit. Venturing has members of both genders. Scouts are all boys, but then there is the Girl Scouts.

However, I agree that efforts to reach into inner cities and some ethic communities have not been overly successful.

I get your point though. There are lots of folks (many of them outside the program)who would change us to be so inclusive we would no longer be recognizable as scouts.

My $0.02? We should not exclude anybody who adheres to the scout oath and law. If traditional father/son for cubs is better served by parent/son given todays demographics, I support that, as it is best for the boys. Does it really matter if Mom comes with the cub?

Take each situation as it comes, one at a time. But only change the core program if it is best for the scouts (meaning the boys) and their development into men we can all be proud of.

Frankly, what we keep getting grief for in the court of public opinion is not the father/son thing but our reading of a scout is clean and morally straight as the public view of morally straight seems to be evolving away from what it was. Dont try to read my personal views into this statement!! Just pointing out what is in the papers and the courts all the time!

Now aint that gonna start some fireworks?!

 

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It's more complicated than simple demographics. There are a lot of other factors involved, what we used to call sociographics. Two men, age 45, married, two kids, business owners, making $300k. One's a lawyer, one's a plumber. Similar demographics, way different sociographics. Which one is more likely to have sons in Scouting? Which one's more likely to be a Scoutmaster?

 

Sociographics has a lot to do with how people see themselves. I think Scouting is seen as a middle class, somewhat archaic activity. Wasn't Beaver a Cub Scout? (not our Beavah, but the one on TV.) Scouting has done a very poor job over the past 15 years of selling itself. We have let others define us. When we try to define ourselves we do so in the negative by talking about what we aren't. I was heartened that in one of his early interviews, Mr. Mazzuca made a similar point. Perhaps he plans to be more aggressive about selling the program.

 

Locally, if you look at the Council's promotional material, the FOS brochures and news releases, you would think we are a social services organization serving the handicapped, those in poverty, minorities and soccer players. (Just kidding about the soccer players -- well sort of kidding) We down-play the upper-middle class kids who excell at Scouting. These boys plan and lead Eagle projects which contributes tens-of-thousands of dollars and man-hours to the community. They do really interesting, significant things. But we don't promote that because the United Way doesn't want to hear it's money is being spent on middle class kids.

 

One issue which needs study is our basic volunteer model. Most of us have an expectation -- I know that I do -- that when a boy joins Scouting, the parent will support the program. We often settle for supporting your own kid, but we expect most parents to support Scouting in general with their time and money. Certainly there are single-parent/single-income families who don't have much of either to spare. But I bet there are a bunch of boys not in the program because their parents reaction to the idea of their kid being a Cub Scout was "I really don't want to get involved."

 

I know very little about Y-Guides, but a couple of my ASMs are in the program with their daughters. They are constantly amazed that the program is basically run by YMCA staff. They just show up with their daughters and the program is laid out for them. They just sit back, drink sodas and munch cookies. While the stereotypical little league parent is way over involved, how many parents think city rec leagues are great because all they have to do is pay their fee and drop their kid off at practice and games? A couple of gung-ho dads are more than happy to be coaches.

 

For families who are predisposed to Scouting, they don't care. But for the average parent shopping retail for activities for their kids to do, they may prefer the drive through at McDonald's to cooking themselves.

 

It should be noted that if I want to join Y-Guides I'm looking at a $1,250 membership ($95/mo family Y membership pluss $100 program fee). Rec league baseball was about $85/season a few years ago, plus it is supported by the town's P&R department staff plus many millions of tax dollars for ball parks.

 

Mazzuca's comments on NBC a few weeks ago really got me thinking. I was particularly struck by his comment that the culture of hispanic families is that they won't drop their 12-year-old off to go camping with strangers. He concluded that we need to adapt the program to include moms and dads, siblings and the random tia or two. Will we have separate Tia & Me troops or will I be expected to drag the whole family along on outings of our traditional troop?

 

Ultimately, most organizations can change only as fast as it's core constituancy will allow it to. (Anyone remember the Republican Party?) Someone wrote here recently in an advancement thread something to the effect that Chief Scout Executives come and go, but it's the front line, unit-serving volunteers who sustain and define the program. Whether any new initiatives succeed of go the way of Urban Scouting will depend largely on the buy-in of folks like us.

 

Apologies for the rambling post....

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Why can't there be a mix of things? Parents should be educated to understand some elements of training are best done in a single-sex environment with minimal distractions but there's no reason some of the campouts and activities can't be opened to be family events. The main thing I ask is that parent attend any mixed-sex activities because chaperoning a bunch of teenage boys (and only boys) can be tiring enough as it is without introducing hormones into the equation.

 

Letting the boys demonstrate their skills in the real environment outdoors may actually be an incentive for them to really learn their skills. Parent attendance may also show that Mister Scoutmaster isn't really a mean old codger who has it out for Little Johnny but rather that Little Johnny likes to shirk his duties and play around.

 

Adapting to changing circumstances shouldn't have to mean abandoning our core principles as some posters are wont to do but flexibility is certainly important to meeting the changing sociographics. I don't really like the idea that Scouting has never really gained traction outside a white suburban/rural base. That implies Scouting didn't try or failed to reach beyond that base. Some of the most impressive troops I've seen were inner city troops from Washington, DC with nary a white face among them -- in fact, I used to point them out to my upper middle-class largely white Scouts who were complaining about the cost of uniforms, maintaining discipline, etc.

 

I think what has been going on were active attacks against anything smacking of traditional values. It has been fashionable amongst the self-styled intelligentsia and artistes to denigrate and downplay Norman Rockwell's America and they have propagandized inner city minority populations to splinter them from the mainstream. What Scouting needs to do is go on the offensive to recruit and show how fallacious the picture painted by the media elite is. Inner city and lower income kids deserve to experience Scouting and the training it offers as much as anyone else and we should help them see that.

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Twocubdad...

 

I'm right on with what you have stated. I strongly agree that boys in single parent homes, those of minority race and those of low income could probably gain more from scouting than anyone. However, I think national needs to re-think their marketing approach.

 

Kids in the afore mentioned groups have parents (or other guardians that raise them) that have very little of two things scouting traditionally requires for success: 1) Time to give and 2) Money to give.

 

Being that I live in a border town area, the issue and the charged debate is almost a daily occurance in my community. The outreach to hispanics will not only require a retooling of the core program (i.e. no hispanic family will drop their son off to camp w/ strangers), but rethinking what is a traditional scouting activity.

 

Even if you get past the funding and time volunteering issues with families of 1st or 2nd generation immigrants, you will have to adapt the program to their needs. Those needs may or may not align with your core constituents. BSA must be careful not to alienate their core supporters while recruiting in new demographics. The core supporters are the ones that fund FOS. Marginalize them and the $$ dry up quickly.

 

Case in point - DE asked our unit to do TWO FOS presentations... I went to round table and found out the DE is doing an "after school" cub scout pilot program to launch a new "hispanic" unit, and didn't I think that was a great outreach project... well I'm not sure what to make of it to be honest. I think its great to get exposure to a group of kids that would otherwise not know scouting. But, I question whether they are actually running a "program", or just a fun time after school. DE said they had over 60 kids sign-up the 1st time... that's a ready made pack, now all they need are the adult volunteers with enough spare time to devote to the unit... best of luck on that one. We have a hard time getting enough volunteers and I'd say our neighborhood is closer to 85% Cleaver families, with a good number having stay-at-home mothers.

 

Now, where does the funding come from to run the after school pilot? Our (collectively speaking of the other district units') FOS donations? Plus, I have a hard time getting past the fact that they are actually calling it a "hispanic" unit. They had several reps / volunteers at the last round table and it was made known that it will be a spanish speaking unit. Wonder how the pledge sounds at their meeting done en Espanol? I am struggling internally to figure out if I should be proud or disgusted at the thought of the Pledge of Alliegance being said in a language other than English? I certainly hope they recite it at least.

 

Never mind that - I wonder if BSA would take issue with our unit rechartering as a "white" unit? Nope, that would probably be deemed a racist label, but I digress. Then again, we have 1st generation French, Phillipino, English (yes UK), Indian, Russian and Scottish in our unit. Its a veritible United Nations unit. But we've never had any other language than english spoken, no special pilot program aimed at a given ethnic group... hey we could use it. We have a LOT of German decendants and not ANY from the Czech Republic that I know of.... Hmmm - I have the perfect recruiting tool "Come Czech Out Scouting !!". Our unit should probably change all our popcorn money to Euros, so the majority of our families will feel more comfortable in the unit and it'll make them feel like they're back home.

 

A couple of examples that lend themselves to TwoCubsDad "scociographics" definition (if I may be so bold)-

 

1) BSA has always been about being a good citizen and being patriotic. Many of the families targetted under this new initiative are living in a torn condition of national association. Why else do you see people matching in the streets with Mexican flags, celebrating Mexican holidays and signing the Mexican national anthem at baseball games (i.e. SD Padres hispanic heritage night last year...) The immigrant families often struggle internally with who and whom their allegience and loyalties lie. You can overcome language barriers, you can subsidize to fund the unit(s), and you can bring in outside volunteers to run the unit. But, if the parents of the boys enrolled do not associate themselves as "American" citizens (some of which may or may not be naturalized), then do you honestly think they will participate in an organization that bills citizenship and patriotism as core values?

 

2) The outdoor activities may or may not lend itself to the targetted audience. I was talking today with a coworker who happens to be a 1st generation immigrant from Mexico (came to the states as a Boy Scout aged boy). We were discussing a weekend campout that I am helping plan for our unit and telling him about some of the things we would be doing on the trip. His comment to me, "See that's the difference... you think its all fun and call it camping.... my people, we call it how we got to this country. I came for a better life, I want my family to live in a house and go on vacation to Disneyland, not sleep in a tent in the desert. I could have stayed poor in Mexico if I wanted them to do that."

 

My coworker was stating it half in gest, but I also heard some sincerity in his words. How much would the program need to change so that one of the core activities (camping) was out of the picture, b/c people who have lived in tents as a means of a roof over their heads are less likely to want to go relive the activity as "fun".

 

If the program was to change, to accomodate these types of cultural variances - what dose that say about it still being relevant and meeting the needs of the middle class? Whats it say about the program adapting to one culture's needs, but not another. We have plenty of Asians and Pacific Islanders in our town as well. Why is there not a directive from national to go after these ethnic sub-sets as well? Guess maybe BSA only plays to the BIG minority groups (i.e. inner city blacks in the 70's and 1st generation Mexican-Americans in the new millinium).

 

I say the program is the program - it has been for almost 100 years. There was never a concerted effort to change program or recruitment methods to woo the German vs. the French vs. the Polish kids that immigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century. They all adapted just fine. Then again, back then there wasn't an expectation on the part of some in the immigrant population to change the U.S. to meet their needs and expectations of their ex-pat country. One could argue there has been a definite shift towards an attitude of, "I want the opportunities of the U.S., but I want it to be like the 'old country' too. Speak my language, print your materials in my native toungue. Understand MY culture instead of me assimilating your yours."

 

Why is BSA whitebread "middle class"? Mostly because that is the demographic in the LDS that saved BSA from the ACLU and the gay/atheist agendas in the late 1980's and 1990's. Its also the demographic that continues to support BSA as the fight continues over land use.

 

I don't think the prgram needs to change. If BSA has solid programming, then boys will be drawn in by the excitement of the program, not because it was changed to accomodate their ethnicity.

 

I hope the pilot program is successful, I really truely do, because I see it as a smart investment by BSA in our local community. The more boys they get, the more likely they are to influence the future by teaching boys to be responsible citizens later in life and thats a very good thing.

 

I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around how a unit can be "hispanic". Then again, there are LDS units, they have a common link in all members with their religion. I'd be interested to know if a hispanic kid could join an LDS unit and if an LDS scout could join the "hispanic" unit? Thats a thought for another topic all together.

 

Leave the program as is - let the indivual units mold it to support the needs of their local neighborhood demographics... its worked that way for nearly 100 years, why fix what ain't broke?

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A couple of thoughts...

 

There is a disconnect with the perception of Scouting, somewhere between "Boy Scouts is dorky" and all the respect Eagle Scouts get. Regardless, Eagle Scouts do get the respect they deserve, and it is the current program that produces them. Will any of the changes in program affect that?

 

It didn't take me long to figure out I am much more interested in quality than quantity in our Troop. I want boys who want to be Scouts. I don't have the time or energy to try to convince a boy he wants to be a Scout, and I really don't want to deal with part-time Scouts who only show up occasionally (differentiate that from active boys who have legitimate conflicts). Granted, operating one unit is much different from operating a national program, but at the end of the day, can you really make a boy want to be a Scout if it isn't in his heart (or culture)?

 

In starting a new Pack or Troop, the one key person you need is the Cubmaster or Scoutmaster, who is usually the parent of a boy in the unit. If you don't have that key person, no matter how much effort a DE or a district puts into a new unit, it will usually fail. So until we find parents in those communities into which the BSA is trying to expand who love Scouting and are willing to be that key person, we aren't going to make much progress.

 

I say keep the program the way it is. Focus on quality, not quantity. It has been my experience that when a quality program is offered, the membership will grow. Don't try to be all things to all people. Do what you do best, and stick to it.

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An observation I had never heard before: Hispanic culture is not supportive of sending their boy out to camp with non-family members?

I am not of that community, and so dont rightly know, but in troops I have been associated with there are a lot of adult leaders, most of whom have scouts active in the program, so isnt a family member involved if you culturally need that? Where would the send my kid out with strangers thought have come from?

The we lived in tents in the old country and dont find camping fun observations, while maybe half in jest, also seems off the mark. How to explain scoutings appeal in rural areas where folks are closer to the outdoors vs. urban areas where the closest they get to nature is a zoo or central park if this is the case?

Anyone know how well international scouting is doing in Latin American countries if it is a cultural thing?

 

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"There is a disconnect with the perception of Scouting, somewhere between "Boy Scouts is dorky" and all the respect Eagle Scouts get."

 

Go ask 10 middle school boys what their perception of Scouting is. Probably 9 of them will say scouting is dorky. Not one of them will have any special respect for Eagle scouts. Its us adults that put value in the Eagle rank, not the kids.

Boys today think scouting is dorky. If it weren't for us parents who force our boys to at least try it, we wouldn't attract any youth. Sure when the kids are exposed to the benefits of scouting and start participating, they too will value the Eagle, but only because us adults put so much value in it.

 

Here's a little test for yourself, if you quit supporting your son in scouting (showed no interest yourself), would he continue? Can you say the same thing about sports or other popular teen activities?

 

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Twocubdad, talk about changing times

 

These days "Two men, age 45, married, two kids, business owners, making $300k. One's a lawyer, one's a plumber" could be talking about one family.

 

Not necessarily apropos of the discussion, just an observation.

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What a lot of scouters fail to recognize is that the basic core of what scouting is and has been for the last 100 years is archaic and irrelevant to todays youth techno centered and self centered exsistence. Unless scouting is totally reinvented it will NEVER appeal to the youth of today.

 

So the question becomes do we totally abandon the essence of what scouting is in order to increase numbers? IMHO I hope not, because if National did transform the program it would cease to be true scouting. It's like the old adage "you can't have your cake and eat it too." When an organization tries to become something it is not it loses its true core of what made it successful in the first place.

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>>What a lot of scouters fail to recognize is that the basic core of what scouting is and has been for the last 100 years is archaic and irrelevant to todays youth techno centered and self centered exsistence.

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I want to add to this subject, being a Royal Ranger leaders, we are also seeing "CHANGING TIMES". Our new National Staff has made it clear that camping is only a option and not a main focus or method we use to reach boys. They are calling us the IPOD Generation and say that boys don't want to camp anymore and camping has gone out of style.

The old dogs like in Scouts are seeing this and know this is the wrong way to go. Becoming (market scouts) to suit the fancy of that neighborhood, is not the way to go. This is what they are wanting us to do with Rangers and start sports troops, teckno troops, or whatever works to keep boys within the program. This is not only wrong but dangerous to the overall foundational values of what we came from and need to stay in. Scout was born in the outdoors/woods and Rangers was too. Isn't is interesting that the most visited and popular stores are camping/outdoor stores:: Cabela's, Academy, and Bass Pro Shops.

If they create a "new" scouting program so that they can win more boys within the program. Than it will not be scouting anymore.

The Ranger program is changing leader title names, uniforms, our main purpose leaders oath. and many other areas. Change for change sake is wrong and trying to do this to think that is will help will really hurt

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From time to time I've mused about whether Scouting is relevant to today's youth. Then I read an 11th grader's facebook page and in his interests he posts that he's a Boy Scout "because that's what awesome people do" or the recent comment my son made that he sees a lot of guys at school (High School) wearing switchback pants and scouting Tshirts and, as he put it, actually admitting they are Boy Scouts. He wears scout Tshirts to school all the time and when teased by another student son said, "Well, I spend weekends whitewater rafting, rock climbing, exploring caves, hiking the AT....what do YOU do?"

 

Scouting may not appeal to many of our techno-centered youth of today, but I don't think the dorkiness factor is anything new. It existed in the 60s when my brothers were in Scouts, long before computer games and playstations.

 

As far as Scouting being an activity for Cleaver families, not the case in our Troop nor in others in this District. Maybe because we're a small Southern town. Almost half of the boys in my Troop are in single parent situations. Several are receiving camperships for summer camp and FOS money for uniforms and handbooks. Even folks that don't necessarily qualify for FOS money take advantage of our uniform closet. I hear the same story from other leaders in other Troops/Packs in the District.

 

There is an area that I've often wondered about. When you take a look at the Cub Packs in our District, they seem to cover the demographics of our area pretty well. Whites and blacks anyway. Hispanic not so much. For some reason, however, we have very few black kids at the Boy Scout level. I'm not sure why that happens.

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